Coaching: a curious conversation

I read an interesting article today in the July edition of the Association for Coaching’s magazine. The editor interviews Aboodi Shabi and draws out his views on whether coaches should get involved in the big issues of the day.

Aboodi gives a resounding “yes” and adds that we must bring our curiosity in order to understand how others see the world differently to how we do. He adds that in a world of loneliness, coaching has a spiritual function. We can help people be more public about their sadness and their fury. And help leaders find what they are committed to beyond themselves and stand up for their values. All worthwhile. But I believe there is also a wider value in how we do what we do.

At the heart of our practice is a commitment to speak the truth as we see it. We give direct feedback with generosity, courage and good intent. We use our intuition but check what it tells us. And above all, we are curious about the other’s world, its internal logic, and the key stories that fuel it. And we look to join our clients in deeply understanding that world without judging it.

It is not for us to tell our clients whether they should engage with the world, or which of the big issues demand their attention. Indeed, the whole idea of us having goals for our clients is fraught with difficulty if they are to drive the agenda as they must. But I want my clients to become more self-correcting. I want them to become more self-regulating. I want them not to need me. And to do that, they need to understand themselves and something of how I work with them.

Now what would happen if they took that one step further? What if they got the habit of telling the truth to others so it could be heard? What if they combined intuition with logic to create insights? What if their approach to others who think, live, and believe differently were one of curiosity not judgement? And if we all conducted our business and pursued our politics in that way, how would the world be different?

I’m running a workshop in a few weeks with a group of senior Whitehall civil servants. We’re going to work on listening as a core leadership skill. I wonder what we’ll see if they bring listening to the core of how government works. And the Labour Party will soon chose a new leader. The contenders have different qualities and different views on what the country and the Labour Party needs. And that will surely weigh as members of the Labour Party decide who deserves their vote. But what would it signal if they chose the one who showed the greatest curiosity, the best listening skills, and the ability, authentically, to tell the truth as they saw it?

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